2HRS2GO: Unsure on techs' direction

3 min read

Today's tech stocks seem to be continuing last week's positive run. Or are they?

The Nasdaq Composite Index was up slightly in early afternoon activity. Advancers outnumber decliners by a margin of roughly 7-to-6 on the Nasdaq.

But the tech-heavy index has also fallen off its intraday high of 3875.66. The Nasdaq 100 Index was down for much of the day. The S&P 500 remains lower so far. And five of the 10 most active stocks -- including Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL), Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) -- remain in negative territory as this is being typed.

Have an opinion on this?

Qualcomm is down following the latest chapter in its China story. But other tech decliners aren't falling for any appreciable reason, unless you count another Cisco acquisition as major news.

At $127 million, I don't count it and you shouldn't either, at least not in a financial sense. As for the strategic aspects, as with all networking technology purchases, we'll see.

Maybe Intel dropped a bit because of the latest chip announcements from Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD), but as with the Cisco purchase, it's nothing unexpected. AMD for months has said it would unveil Thunderbird and Duron in June.

You could (emphasis on could) even consider the Nasdaq's mild gains of today as an indication of slowing momentum, especially when compared to last week's surge. And that might be the problem right there: a sudden and large move higher often isn't sustained.

Now if the indices could string together several sessions of gradual increases -- in other words, several more days like today -- that might be reason for optimism.

Someone's betting heavy against Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) as the antitrust trial winds down. Shares of rival OS peddlers Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT), Caldera Systems (Nasdaq: CALD), Be Inc. (Nasdaq: BEOS) and the Santa Cruz Operation (Nasdaq: SCOC) are up 17 percent or more today.

But Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW), whose Solaris OS is probably the single most popular Unix variant, is down slightly. Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL), whose MacOS is the most popular non-Windows choice on the consumer side, also slid a bit. Perhaps all big-time commercial OS vendors are evil in the eyes of the anti-Microsoft crowd.

While we're talking about technology and the finance world, I wonder if it really would have been too much to vet the screenplay of Mission Impossible 2 with some financial types?

The movie's villain demands stock options as his extortion price from an Australian biotech company, based on the belief that it stands to make many billions by peddling a cure for a deadly disease engineered by the fictional "Biocyte" firm itself. Biocyte pays our villain (with the oh-so-menacing name of "Sean") 30 million pounds (Or is it 37 million? The movie switches between the figures without explanation) so he can buy enough option calls to assume control of the company after the virus is released to the general public.

The scientific absurdities don't bother me, but I'd like to see some believability when it comes to the greed stuff. At the very least, explain how Evil Sean could be smart enough to outfox the world's entire espionage yet be completely ignorant of laws governing insider trading. Or maybe he believes securities regulators would ignore the timing of his takeover and the biggest blockbuster in the company's history.

Incidentally, the Biocyte firm supposedly gained the "Chimera" research team in a hostile takeover. Evidently the MI2 folks didn't do much research of their own, or else they would have realized that hostile takeovers in technology industries almost never happen, because talent doesn't hang around in hostile situations.

On the other hand, the action sequences are classic John Woo, whose motto seems to be "Why settle for anything less than slo-mo?" It makes for plenty of eye candy and some laughably dramatic sequences that seem to be choreographed by the crew of Xena, Warrior Princess. But laughter is entertainment too, which is all I expect from a $5 matinee. 22GO>